Sound — 9
It's difficult to condense the brilliant collection of ideas and sounds featured on the newest addition to the Porcupine Tree discography Fear of a Blank Planet. The album comes five years after the release of prog-rock masterpiece In Absentia and two after the band's most recent release Deadwing, making it a highly anticipated and equally suited addition to the group's largely successful history. Though the album follows a bleak and disturbing story of a troubled youth, the music is nothing short of brilliant. Intelligently composed around a highly original collection of sounds and coupled with eloquent song writing, the album mirrors the artistic qualities of, not only the album's main creator Steven Wilson, but the genuine beauty of the progressive rock genre. The album opens with the title track, Fear of a Blank Planet which extends at a comfortable seven and a half minutes. The song begins with the typing of computer keys and slowly progresses so that it builds in intensity, a musical accompaniment that appears to perfectly mirror the turbulent life of the faded youth. As the album progresses, so does the style of music, moving at graceful pace from soft (My Ashes) to heavy (Anesthetize) and going deeper into the youth's troublesome psyche. Standout tracks include the melodic Way out of Here and ultimate prog-rock opus Anesthetize.
Lyrics — 8
Based on a teenager's disengagement with the wider society, the album provides an engaging (and harrowing) journey through the youth's inescapable downward spiral, highlighting the destructive nature of the world around him. From the bleak confines of his bedroom to the emotional dysfunction caused by an excess of drugs, Porcupine Tree capture this powerful imagery with a cleverly selected musical composition. Lyrically, the song details (quite graphically) exactly what the music projects. Lines such as you feel no sun, you steal a gun, to kill time are gripping as they provide the disturbing reality of the character in a way that is not overly simple or complex in language. Though not quite as lyrically creative as with past releases, primary songwriter and front man Steve Wilson does enough to ensure the story fits perfectly with the music. As always, Wilson has set himself up as a 'voice' for the modern prog-rock age and thus the vocals are comfortable accompaniment to the flow of the music.
Overall Impression — 8
While the album, in comparison to previous releases, is noticeably different it is not a huge departure from the band's easily recognised sound. In fact, Porcupine Tree, in maintaining their traditional style don't turn their backs on new and more modern sounds. The album's clever integration of many different genres make it a genuine recommendation for admirers of progressive and hard rock, blues, jazz and even heavy metal.